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Survival Under Atomic Attack

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Survival Under Atomic Attack

Published 1951

"Explains" the dangers of the atomic bomb, the effects of radiation and how to protect oneself if caught in the open or in the home.

Run time 8:45
Producer U.S. Office of Civil Defense
Sponsor U.S. Office of Civil Defense
Audio/Visual Sd, B&W


Explains the dangers of the atomic bomb, the effects of radiation and what the individual should do to protect himself if caught in the open or in his home.

Ken Smith comments: "Let us, without panic, face the reality of our times," says the authoritative, measured, resonant voice of Edward R. Murrow. That's good advice; unfortunately, this blatantly unrealistic film doesn't follow it.
The title is superimposed over a drawing of a mushroom cloud; if you look closely, you can see the tops of skyscrapers peeking out from the cloud base. This isn't a very reassuring visual, but the Office of Civil Defense somehow manages to put a positive spin on things. Murrow reminds us of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as we see footage of smiling, happy Japanese. "The majority of people exposed to radiation recovered quickly," he explains. "Today, they lead normal lives."
The real, insane message of this film -- one espoused by many Civil Defense films of the Truman years -- is that we should stay put when the bombs fall. "An enemy would like nothing better than to have us leave our cities empty and unproductive," Murrow chastises. "Our factories will be battle stations. Production must go on if we are to win." Likewise "our offices and homes will also be posts of duty, not to be deserted." And why should we run when (according to this film) staying put during a nuclear blast is so easy? We're shown one patriotic American lying in a street gutter under a newspaper, another crouched behind a stuffed chair. A flash, some broken glass, some dust is blown through a window, and that's all there is to it.
All of this is intercut with stock footage of real A-bomb blasts, which are HUGE and incredibly scary. This bouncing back and forth between reality and the Government's rosy view isn't especially reassuring, but apparently the OCD felt its audiences wouldn't notice the difference. Murrow has a great deal of advice for the I'm-staying-put homeowner. As an average family demonstrates -- moments before the bomb turns everything into a nuclear inferno -- dad puts a lid on the garbage can, sis closes the drapes, mom unplugs the iron, and everybody hides under dad's workbench with a first aid kit and a bottle of water. "Have a good flashlight on hand, " Murrow adds. "Electric lights may go out."
"If the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had known what we know about civil defense, thousands of lives would be saved." If the Soviets had known how little we knew about civil defense, they would've nuked us.
Quick-paced, particularly for a government film. Lots of cutting. Terrific overblown musical soundtrack. Plenty of A-bomb footage. This film looks as if it had a bigger budget than most of its Civil Defense brethren.

06:11:25:00 - 06:11:29:00
Aerial view of clouds

06:11:30:00 - 06:11:38:00
CU woman hanging clothes on line, looks up and o.s.; CU man looking up o.s.

06:11:38:00 - 06:11:49:00
Aerial view of clouds; high angle mushroom cloud from atomic bomb explosion

06:11:50:00 - 06:12:20:00
VS buildings destroyed by bomb explosion

06:12:21:00 - 06:12:24:00
LS mushroom cloud (washed out)

06:12:25:00 - 06:12:39:00
VS man standing on bridge in Hiroshima, Japan, pointing out bleached marks on road

06:12:40:00 - 06:12:54:00
VS doctors and nurses working on patients in shelter, Japan

06:12:54:00 - 06:12:58:00
MS Asian men and women walking on sidewalk; 3 with bandages on their faces

06:12:59:00 - 06:12:04:00
MS Asian family sitting at dinner

06:13:05:00 - 06:13:13:00
VS buildings destroyed by bomb explosions

06:13:14:00 - 06:13:23:00
MLS city skyline (water in FG); cars driving along busy city street

06:13:23:00 - 06:13:34:00
VS production in factory

06:13:34:00 - 06:13:38:00
City buildings

06:13:39:00 - 06:13:55:00
VS man and woman sitting on living room sofa reading book titled "Survival Under Atomic Attack"

06:13:56:00 - 06:14:39:00
MCU man and woman walk down basement stairs, checking sturdiness of ceiling beams; VS couple talking as they look around and under work bench

06:14:40:00 - 06:14:59:00
MS man walks down stairway and through hall, looking around; MS woman walks out of bedroom, inspecting door; woman standing in hallway looking at mirror

06:15:00:00 - 06:15:07:00
MS couple and woman holding baby, standing in apartment lobby, looking at posted sign reading "Notice To All Tenants"

06:15:07:00 - 06:15:15:00
CU early 1950s fallout shelter sign reading "S -- Public Shelter"; CU sign reading "Shelter Zone"; crowd of people entering shelter

06:15:16:00 - 06:15:30:00
MS man walks in storage area, gathering up old newspapers; CU man disposing newspapers into garbage can; high angle MS man putting trash into garbage can

06:15:32:00 - 06:15:37:00
CU woman removing canned goods from kitchen cabinet

06:15:37:00 - 06:15:41:00
High angle CU woman removing flashlight from drawer

06:15:41:00 - 06:15:46:00
VS woman walks in bathroom and removes "First Aid Kit" from cabinet

06:15:46:00 - 06:15:51:00
CU refrigerator door opens and woman places bottle of water on shelf

06:15:51:00 - 06:15:55:00
CU old radio sitting on wood table

06:15:56:00 - 06:16:09:00
MS man and woman storing things under workbench; CU woman looks o.s., smiling; VS little boy walks to her and hands her a can opener; CU man smiling; woman kisses little boy

06:16:09:00 - 06:16:17:00
High angle LS city buildings; pan to CU alarm

06:16:17:00 - 06:17:42:00
Dramatized atomic attack.
MCU little boy in cowboy hat hiding behind rocks, pointing toy gun; MS family sitting in living room (man and woman reading, girl playing with doll); air raid warning siren is heard; all look o.s.; VS of CU each of their faces; they get up and scatter; man walks to window, looking out; MS little boy running toward house; MS man pulls blinds on window and closes curtains; woman walks in kitchen, turning off stove; VS woman walking around kitchen, unplugging outlets and closing window blinds; MS father gives boy rolled up mat; man walks to door; CU man unlocks door; CU woman turns off oil burner; MS young girl runs down stairs with doll and radio, greets father in hallway; VS family walking down basement stairs, they run over and get under work bench; man looks at watch; CU watch at 11:54

06:17:43:00 - 06:18:10:00
CU street clock at 11:56; pan down to MS man walking down street; VS men hitting the pavement after (simulated) atomic flash; VS debris falling around

06:18:12:00 - 06:18:37:00
MS woman setting dining room table; older woman knitting and man reading paper in living room behind her; (simulated) atomic flash seen through window; VS they all hit the floor; MS window glass shatters and blows in; MS mirror crashes to the ground; MS ceiling panels fall onto nicely set table; track back to people on floor amidst destructive aftermath

06:18:38:00 - 06:18:53:00
MLS mushroom cloud after impact

06:18:54:00 - 06:19:01:00
MS man putting up curtain

06:19:01:00 - 06:19:13:00
High angle MLS men walking around collapsed house with radiation meter; CU radiation meter

06:19:13:00 - 06:19:17:00
MCU woman looking at monitor

06:19:17:00 - 06:19:32:00
MCU track in to CU man washing young boy's hair in sink

06:19:33:00 - 06:19:45:00
VS man and woman, sitting on sofa, reading booklet titled "Survival Under Atomic Attack"

Danger Lurks television TV civil defense atom bomb nuclear warfare attack explosion glass (breaking) famil basement emergency preparedness cold war cowboy (costume) boy son father mother daughter house home shelter fallout 1950s fifties radiation radioactivity


Reviewer: splue - - March 20, 2011
Subject: warppropaganda where would u be without it?
stuck in a hut playing with ur shrunken head that's
where. go live in iran & see how much freedom of
speech u have--ur penis will be sewn in ur mouth in under a week

sry!!! for that whole penis sewn thingy
Reviewer: warpropaganda101 - favorite - March 20, 2011
Subject: Survival Under Attack
Great war propaganda. Love how they explain so aptly the lack of radioactive damage the atomic bombs incurred on Japan.

The best part is the end when they say how better prepared the Japanese could have been if they had known what to do.

It is the pestilence of the U.S. Military Industrial Complex that breeds arrogance. What a sickened and illusory country.
Reviewer: Deekin - favoritefavoritefavorite - January 17, 2011
Subject: Staring into the center of an A-Bomb blast...
is a fantastic way to sear the front half of your skull and will guarantee total blindness, yet scene after scene of this fine reel shows everyone craning to see how big the mushroom cloud will get. Maybe the explosions don't hurt you in black and white - I don't know.
Reviewer: kwicker - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 28, 2010
Subject: May Seem Like a Joke, But.....
I'll admit that in the age of Hydrogen Bombs, there are an awful lot of "ifs" to surviving a nuclear blast. HOWEVER, IF you have adequate warning, getting in your car and fleeing is the WORST thing you can do. Mainly because, everyone else will be doing the same thing and you won't be fleeing the attack, only making yourself a sitting duck by sitting on some freeway parking lot. It is best to shelter at your current location, to the best of your abilities. Yes, you may end up as ash or crushed meat, but your best odds will always be with staying put and doing what you can to lessen heat, blast and fallout effects. Having a defeatest attitude in any situation usually only gets you what you are striving for; failure.
Reviewer: angelwolf65 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 27, 2009
Subject: Survive An Atomic Attack While Smoking!
The part where the guy was reading the book to his wife, while SMOKING was hilarious! More people have been killed by smoking than by the bomb!
Reviewer: A-ROb - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 18, 2008
Subject: huh?
where's the part about being able to survive the blast by hiding in a refrigerator? (and having said fridge blasted into the air and slam back down on the ground)
Reviewer: OhFUwC - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 25, 2008
Subject: The Remix
I just released a hip hop mix using samples from
this film. Its called The Breakdown ( atomic safety concerns ) under the name antagone on iTunes and amazon mp3.
Reviewer: eduardoivanovich - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 27, 2008
Subject: about Atomic Attack (1951)
Atomic Survival 1951 · Atomic Attack 1951 · Self Preservation In An Atomic Attack (1950)
Reviewer: Older_and_Cynical - favoritefavoritefavorite - April 8, 2006
Subject: A bottle of water...
...well, I guess in the '50s a nuclear (ha-ha) family would only need a half-gallon bottle of water for their survival needs. I love the florid music (especially the harp)! And those bricks somehow falling only on the sidewalk instead of bouncing into the street where John Q. Public has taken refuge against a convenient curb; I guess building materials were different then. Someone here put it best about if the Soviets knew how little we knew about the realities of nuclear war, they would have nuked us; how true. Informative value-nil. Entertainment value-3 stars.
Reviewer: Trio33 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 21, 2006
Subject: Lie under a table
It's sad seeing people try to believe that there is no danger in this world that cannot be overcome if you prepare yourself in advance. I imagine our attitude today is pretty much, "If they drop an atomic bomb on me then I'm a dead man." Cardboard over the windows. Yes, that will keep out that bad old radioactive dust. It was neat the way he stressed the point about the Japanese A-bomb survivors that "their children were completely normal." Kind of makes you wonder if they were, doesn't it?
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 29, 2005
Subject: Hoo-ray For The Atomic Bomb!
Another delirious, I think even more so, about what you should do when the big one hits. Plenty of weird things are thrown at you, Keep your place tidy! hide under your workbench! Hide behind stone walls! etc etc. You see, those silly Japanese didn't have strong buildings, and since we're America, our buildings will protect us! And then we can go outside after a few minutes after the bomb hits! Huzzah!
Reviewer: Logoliker2004 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 14, 2005
Subject: Very informative... if it were still 1951.
This, out of most of the civil defense films, is one of the few most informative and realistic ones ever produced. This also actually uses stock footage of nuclear explosions, too! We also see clips of the results of the World War II nukes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. It has good information about how the atomic bomb works, such as using radioactivity and heat to destroy. The fallout shelter scenes are neat, also. Especially when the little boy remembers the can opener for the shelter to open the canned goods (snicker snicker.) The air raid alert is also well-done. But when we come to the atomic blast simulations, they're quite good. We have the flashes, and a lot of stuff are destroyed (debris flies everywhere, a mirror crashes to the ground, and such.) All in all, very educational and nice to watch!
Reviewer: Chuck B - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 9, 2003
Subject: I will be ready now!
Actually if you were 20 - 30 miles away from the blast this advice might help. Not sure if all of the Japanese who experienced the atom bomb were "happy" after it was all over. But hey, what are you gonna have to think you can do something to try to save your but! You better bet I'm going to start constructing my bomb shelter to get ready for the next idiot that wants to go nuclear - It seems there are several contenders (N Korea and Iran) to take the place of the Soviets!

A fast paced action flick with hope and some advice (would be nice if it could save you...lets face it though - there were A bomb survivors).
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - favoritefavoritefavorite - October 27, 2002
Subject: Survival Under Atomic Attack
This early 50's civil defense film shows families how to prepare their homes for atomic attack. It's an awful lot like tornado precautions. The actual threat of nuclear war seems no more frightening than a bad storm here. Of course, what else could they doÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂtell people to kiss their rear ends goodbye? Watch for the scene where the littlest member of the family remembers the can opener (d'oh!).
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***. Also available on Atomic Memories, Atomic Scare Films, Vol. 1, Atomic TV, Atomic War Bride/This Is Not a Test DVD, and U.S. Government Classics.
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